DISCLAIMER: I don't own them, but I certainly wish I did. Damn Ryan Murphy and his unrivaled genius.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the third story in the "Surviving the Holidays" series. Following Things That Go Bump in the Night and Overstaying Your Welcome.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

What's So Merry about Christmas?
By Teara


"So Sam, did you talk to Cory last night?" Carmen turned around excitedly and looked at her best friend.

The brunette journalist immediately perked up at her friend's question. "Yes, but we didn't get to talk for long. He had a final to study for. I didn't think it would be so hard to be this far away from him." Sam sighed, leaning her chin on her palm.

"I know, but just think in two weeks he'll be all moved over here. Then you two can become one of those disgustingly cute couples that spends all their time together," Carmen gushed.

She's got the disgusting part right, Brooke thought as she listened to the conversation her seatmate was having with her friend. She rolled her eyes. She was so tired of hearing about Cory and Sam. It was bad enough she was subjected to the phone calls late into the night and Sam walking around with that stupid grin on her face. Now, it seemed every time she was around Sam and her friends, they were always asking the journalist about Cory. Brooke couldn't figure out why she was being subjected to this torture.

"Yeah it will be great," Sam said, plastering a huge grin on her face. Only she wasn't so sure anymore. Choosing Cory over Brooke three weeks ago had seemed like the right thing to do. She'd figured that Brooke had just been after her because Cory was. Everyone knew how competitive Brooke was, but now she wasn't sure of anything. It didn't help that the two of them had gone from polite friendship to complete and total hostility whenever they were in each other's presence. A part of her seemed to desperately want to believe that Brooke's feelings for her were sincere, but the blonde's actions lately could be considered anything but loving.

"It sucks that you'll have to wait until New Years to see him." Carmen appeared to be rather fixated on the Cory topic. Sam wondered if she was living vicariously.

"Maybe not, his new roommate invited him to some big party next weekend. He said he might fly in for that. He asked me to go. I told him 'yes,' but it's still up in the air. I still haven't asked my mother." Sam wished that Carmen would move on. She'd noticed how agitated the blonde sitting next to her had become even though she didn't acknowledge it. Bringing attention to it was the last thing she wanted to do in an already awkward situation. And she was tired of fighting with Brooke. It just seemed to be the one thing they were good at.

"That would be so awesome," Carmen gushed.

Yeah, just great… Sam and Brooke thought at the same time, but for very different reasons. Their eyes met briefly, before each scowled and looked away. Carmen's look grew concerned, but Sam shook her head, cutting off the other girl's question before it was even asked. She didn't want to have that conversation and certainly not in the middle of physics class sitting next to Brooke. Carmen nodded in agreement, but Sam knew she was in for a barrage of questions after class.

"Okay listen up you future Wal-Mart and airport gift shop employees." Bobbi Glass walked into the class in her usual brusque manner, slamming a sack down on her desk. "Principal Krupps has just informed me that the kindergarteners of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg Elementary School really enjoyed last year's STD musical. It seems we've been asked to put on a 'Holiday Showcase.' Luckily for all of us, I was already in the process of writing one. Now in a single file line, come up and get your scripts."

"Holiday Punch?" Carmen asked, looking up at the teacher in confusion.

"That's right, the holidays aren't just for kids anymore." Miss Glass' eyes almost gleamed with mischief as she smiled. "I've taken a collection of Christmas sketches and put them together with a part for each of you in mind. Miss Esposito, Miss Ferrara, Mr. John, and Tuna, you will be my delightfully disgruntled elves in the Santaland Diaries. Miss Julian, Miss McPherson you two will be the critics in the elementary school Christmas play sketch…yes Miss Julian?"

"I'm sorry, Claw. I don't think I heard you correctly. I will play opposite Spam McSlutty?"

Brooke shot Nicole a warning look. The shorter blonde had been on an Anti-Sam campaign since she'd found out about what had happened during Thanksgiving.

"Actually, Nicole, I'm sure that the football team would agree that that is a nickname better suited for you." Sam turned around and faced the shorter blonde, whose face had gone red in anger. The students chuckling at Sam's comment didn't help the situation.

"Yeah well, at least I go on dates, Tippy. The last time you went out on a Friday night, your mommy was buying you Happy Meals," Nicole shot back, her eyes gleaming dangerously, daring Sam to reply.

"I didn't realize a McDonald's value meal and a quick trip to the backseat constituted a date nowadays," Sam replied, taking the bait. The rest of the class looked on as if they were watching a tennis match.

"Buffy and Cordy, save that passion for the stage," Miss Glass growled. "Mr. Ford, Mr. Bernadino, and Mr. Dick, you three will play the Chipmunks. Mr. John, you will be doubling up on a part and playing Dave Seville in the 'Chipmunks' skit. Mr. Austin you will play Santa Claus in 'Santa Baby' opposite you, playing your wife, Mrs. Claus, will be our very own Brooke McQueen."

Brooke's head shot up and she looked at the teacher with alarm. "Me?"

"That's right Miss McQueen. Is there a problem?"

"Well, sir, it says here that Mrs. Claus sings and dances around Santa." Brooke held up her script and pointed. The last thing she wanted to do was get on stage and make a fool of herself singing. Sam didn't need one more embarrassing story to add to her ever-expanding arsenal.

"Yes, I am aware of this. What's your point?"

"Sir, I don't think I'm right for this part. I mean there are definitely others in this class a lot more 'qualified' than me." She hoped Miss Glass would take pity on her and let her out of this. "Besides, there's choreographed dancing. That looks pretty complicated and would require a lot of practice time. I'm just not sure I have that sort of time to commit, what with my commitment to the Glamazons, studying for physics and tutoring." Brooke threw that last part in, hoping to persuade the teacher further. Truthfully, she was getting an 'A' in physics. Earlier in the week, Miss Glass had come to her and asked her to tutor Josh as part of a debt she owed the football coach.

"Right, I'm assuming you already have someone else in mind?" Bobbi Glass looked at the blonde expectantly.

Brooke thought for a moment. Who could she get to do it? It wasn't like she had a lot of options. She did a quick glance around the room and her eyes fell on the perfect replacement. The fact that this also worked in her favor in other areas was just a bonus. "I do. I think Sam McPherson should do it-"

Sam looked over at her blonde seatmate as if she'd suddenly grown another head. "What?!"

Brooke ignored Sam's outrage. "After all, she did do all the singing in your last play, and the kids really loved her as a 'whore.'"

"That is true." The blonde teacher looked thoughtful for a moment. "Miss McPherson, you will be 'Mrs. Claus' and Brooke will take over your part in the skit with Miss Julian."

"But that's not fair!" Sam protested, but it fell on deaf ears.

"Moving along!" Bobbi Glass said loudly, affectively cutting off further protest. "Rehearsals begin this afternoon and you will be there, on time, or thirty percent of your grades will become an automatic 'F.' We open next weekend at eight o'clock."

Sam opened her mouth to protest again, but knew it was of no use. She wondered if she'd still be able to make the party with Cory. This little performance would severely cut into her time and her curfew was at midnight. Cory wouldn't just want to go to a party for two hours. She flipped through her script, looking at the new scene she'd been assigned. At least before, her part had been small and she would have been able to slip out, but that was not to be the case any longer and she had Brooke to thank for that.

"Can you believe her?!" Sam had been ranting about Brooke for the past ten minutes.

"Sam, calm down. I don't think she meant any harm," Harrison said, trying to comfort his friend. He looked at his other friends for help.

"Yeah, I mean you've said it plenty of times before, Brooke couldn't carry a tune in a bucket." Carmen smiled over at Sam optimistically before shooting Harrison a desperate look.

Sam pouted but remained silent. She knew Brooke was up to something. She couldn't tell her friends that, not without spilling the whole Thanksgiving story and she wasn't ready for that. So far, she'd been successful in distracting them from questions concerning Brooke. It had been a lot harder in the beginning when she'd first told them she was dating Cory. They'd been confused, but when they realized she wasn't going to give in and tell them the details, they'd relented. They even seemed happy for her.

She saw Lily looking at her suspiciously, but refused to meet the Latina's gaze head on. Sometimes she wondered if Lily was some sort of witch. She always seemed to be able to see Sam's true emotions, no matter how deep she tried to bury them. Luckily the tension between the two friends was broken when Josh arrived at the table with George Austin in tow.

Sam hadn't seen too much of George since their break up at the end of junior year. They gave each other polite smiles as the passed in the hallway, but they hadn't spoken a single word to one another in months. They certainly hadn't eaten lunch together. So she was surprised and confused when he sat in the empty seat across from her. He smiled and nodded at all of her friends before turning his attention to Sam.

"Hello Sam," he said slowly, tilting his head to meet her eyes.

"Hey George, what brings you to this side of the cafeteria?" Sam smiled pleasantly at him. She didn't hold any animosity towards him. It was quite the opposite, and as the football player sat before her, she realized her guilt over hurting him still hadn't fully gone away.

"Well, Josh invited me and I actually wanted to talk to you." He took a bite of his sandwich eying her in a way she found very disconcerting.

"Really? What did you want to talk to me about?"

He took a long drink from his juice box and took a deep breath. "I just wanted to make sure there wouldn't be any awkwardness between us because of this play. I mean given our past and everything."

Sam blinked. In her anger over Brooke's actions, she hadn't even considered the fact that she would be working one on one with her ex-boyfriend a lot over the next week. This added a new level of complications to an already complex situation. Her break up with George hadn't exactly been one of amiable parting. Now they'd be working together and given the nature of the song, intimately in a way that was sure to be awkward for both parties concerned.

She looked up and finally met his eyes with her own before plastering on a smile and clearing her throat. "No, I'm sure everything will be fine."

George returned her smile and turned to talk to Carmen. Once his attention was focused on her friend, Sam scowled at Brooke. She wondered what else Brooke could possibly ruin.

"Well, well, well, now that the cat's away, seems like the mouse has come out to play." Nicole set her tray on the table and sat down.

Brooke looked up at her in confusion. "What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about McBitch McPherson." Nicole nodded her head towards Sam's table.

Brooke discreetly turned around to the table the Browns normally occupied. She was surprised to see Sam sitting across from George Austin, laughing and talking. First Cory, now George? Brooke thought, turning back around to face her friend. "Yeah, but she's just talking to him. I mean it doesn't mean anything, right?"

Nicole's blue eyes narrowed as she caught the look of fear on her best friend's face. "What do you care, Brookie? I thought you were over Spam."

Brooke shook her head. "You're right, I am over her. I don't care."

Nicole looked at her with disbelief, but didn't comment.

"Ohmygod ya'll, did ya see who was sitting at the table with mah beloved Joe and talkin' ta Spam?"

Brooke closed her eyes, willing the world to go away. She had long since stopped sitting in the seat that faced Sam and her friends. It didn't help that her friends seemed to want to give her a play by play of everything that the brunette did. It was hard enough to see Sam at home. Even when the journalist wasn't home, everything in their house reminded Brooke of Sam. Then to have to sit next to her in physics class, inhaling her scent, feeling the warmth coming off of her body…Brooke shook her head to clear her thoughts. She squeezed the bridge of her nose, hoping to stop the pounding in her head.

"Brookie, are ya okay?" Mary Cherry asked.

"Uh, yeah, but do you think we could stop talking about Sam now?"

"Sure Hun, we'll stop talking about the girl that isn't worthy enough to breathe the same air as you, let alone worth your time and affections."

"Here, here! I think we should all go ta mah mama's new spa, git facials and check out the new issue of Vogue. Gweenith is on the cover lookin' trés fabulous. Then you can forgit all about Scummy McPherson."

"I agree with Mary Cherry. There is nothing a good massage and the latest issue of Vogue can't fix."

Except a broken heart, Brooke thought sourly. Just thinking about Sam brought tears to her eyes, but she was done crying. She looked back at the other table. Sam was laughing at something one of her friends had said. Her expression grew cold and angry when her gaze met Brooke's. The blonde returned the glare, but her heart wasn't really in it. Her heart felt so heavy and she found herself longing for the days when she and Sam had pretended to hate one another. Those were feelings she understood and could handle. Anything would be better than this shattered feeling that had taken up permanent residence in her soul.

"Whaddaya say, Brookie? Are ya up fer it?"

"Actually guys, I'm busy. Jane needs me to help out with Mac." It wasn't a total lie. She was busy, but it certainly wasn't to help Jane. She had another tutoring session with Josh. Maybe if they worked late enough, she'd miss dinner and Sam would already be in her room.

"Why did you do that, Brooke?! I mean what were you thinking? You know what? Don't even bother to answer that. I know what you were thinking." Sam slammed the kitchen door behind her and Brooke as they entered the house.

So much for avoiding Sam…how could I forget that she had a Zapruder meeting today? Brooke thought. She'd been surprised to see Sam's car pull up behind hers when she'd arrived home. The brunette hadn't even waited for Brooke to get out of the car before tearing into her.

"Well enlighten me, Sam! What was I thinking?!"

Jane came rushing down the stairs, her eyes wild as she looked at the two angry teenagers. "What the hell is going on down here? I just got Mac to sleep."

"Why don't you ask Sam? I just got home and she started yelling at me for no reason. I didn't even say anything to her." Brooke knew she sounded like a child, but she didn't care.

"Sam?" Jane looked at her eldest daughter expectantly.

"Well mother, thanks to Brooke I have to parade around the stage, yet again and flirt with my ex-boyfriend all because she couldn't rearrange her schedule for a week!" Sam was so angry Brooke could almost feel the heat coming from her gaze.

Brooke could feel the old anger from her earlier relationship with Sam bubble up inside her. It burned in her stomach and shot through her veins. It feels good to be back. "I'm sorry that I don't feel like making a fool of myself in front of the whole school just so you can go to some college party with your boyfriend." Brooke spit out the last word like it caused a nasty taste in her mouth.

"College party?" Jane looked over at Sam.

Sam winced at her mother's gaze. That so wasn't the way she'd wanted her mother to find out. "Yeah, I was going to talk to you about it when I got home today."

"Okay, so talk to me about it now." Jane crossed her arms over her chest.

Brooke knew she should probably leave and let them talk in private, but she could see that Jane was already geared up to tell Sam 'no' and that somehow fed Brooke's recently morbid obsession with seeing Sam get in trouble.

"Well, Cory's new roommate invited him to some big holiday party, they throw every year on the weekend before Christmas. He asked me if I wanted to come along."

"I don't know Sam…a college party?" Jane started and Brooke prepared herself for the fireworks.

"Mom, what's the big deal? It's just a party." Sam tried to make light of the situation, but Brooke could see her anger slowly start to build again.

"No, it's a college party. It's not the same thing," Jane corrected her.

"Okay, so it's a college party. So what? I mean I'm dating a guy in college. He's going to go to parties and hopefully he's going to want to take me."

"I am well aware that you're dating a guy in college. Cory's a great boy. I trust him with your safety, but I don't trust the other people that I know are going to be at this party."

"How about you trust me with my safety? God Mom, I'm seventeen years old. I'm not a child anymore!"

"Correction, you are a child. You're my child! And I don't think you need to go to a college party." Jane's tone grew impatient, but remained dangerously calm.

"God, I can't believe that you're the same person that just last year convinced Mike to let Brooke date a boy in college. A guy, I might add, that turned out to be a lowlife, cheating jerk. But I guess that was different, huh? Because it was Brooke."

The blonde winced at the mention of her ex-boyfriend Jamie. She was beginning to wish she'd left the room when she'd had the chance, but she could see no way of making her escape now.

"Watch your tone, Samantha. I don't like what you're implying-"

"Why Mom, because it's true?! Why don't you just admit that you think Brooke's a better daughter than I am? You think she's more capable of making smart decisions than your own flesh and blood."

"Sam that is not true, and please leave Brooke out of this. It has nothing to do with her."

"You're right, Mom. Brooke McQueen can do no wrong. The sun fucking rises and sets on the fair and lovely Princess Brooke!"

"Sam enough! I will not have you speak to me in that manner, and I certainly will not stand for you attacking members of this family. Go to your room, now! And you can forget about that party!" Jane growled, her green eyes glinting with anger.

Sam shot an icy glare at Brooke before stomping up the stairs muttering something about "heinous, dysfunctional, blended families."

"You better not slam the door!" Jane yelled after her, but it was to no avail, as two seconds later the brooding journalist's door slammed so hard Brooke was sure it shook on its frame.

The sound of Mac wailing followed soon after and Jane sighed. "Sometimes I wonder as I look at Mac's beautiful face, if she'll turn out to be just as much of a handful as Sam is," Jane said, offering Brooke a self-deprecating smile before heading back up the stairs.

Brooke sighed, resting her chin on her palm. Watching the scene between the mother and daughter hadn't filled her the way she'd thought it would. If anything, she felt empty and guilty for getting Sam in trouble. This was not how she wanted things to be with Sam. She loved Sam. She loved Sam so much that it kept her awake at night, but how could she still be in love with someone that had crushed her? The night Sam told her she was picking Cory, Brooke had felt like she was literally being stabbed in the heart. It had taken her breath away, and she'd collapsed on her bed, gasping for air through her tears.

She'd tried staying away from Sam at first, but it was hard to avoid someone that lived in your house and shared your bathroom. Besides, she'd found herself haunting the places she'd known the brunette had just been and listening in on her phone calls with Cory. That was when Brooke began to wonder at her own sanity. It was like she had some morose need to punish herself. For what, she wasn't sure, but there it was. She knew she should just forget about Sam, but she couldn't. Listening in on the phone calls, and sneaking looks at Sam's text messages when the journalist would accidentally leave her phone at home had done nothing for Brooke but left her feeling raw and angry. There was a constant burning in her stomach and she couldn't sleep or eat. She couldn't focus on her schoolwork and she was afraid if she didn't do something soon, her grades would suffer.

So she'd stopped avoiding Sam and spent more time with her friends. Though nothing seemed to be working. She knew Nicole and even Mary Cherry were sick of hearing her whine and complain. She was tired of hearing it herself. She just needed to find a way to get Sam out of her system, she thought with a sigh before heading upstairs to her room.

Sam sat in the back of the room, watching Nicole and Brooke on the stage pretending to be Siskel and Ebert as they ripped apart the mediocre quality that was synonymous with elementary school holiday plays. This was a role Nicole was meant to play, Sam thought as she watched their antics. The shorthaired blonde had an almost sinister smile permanently attached to her face. It also seemed to come natural for Brooke, who was having just as much fun. Though that didn't surprise Sam. Brooke seemed to have it in for her. She was finding every possible way to torture the journalist.

After getting her grounded from the party, Sam hoped the blonde was through. She was wrong. Two days later, while she'd been at practice, Sam received a call from a very distressed Cory, asking her why she was on a date with her ex-boyfriend. The brunette had been so surprised that she didn't know how to answer the question. Cory had assumed that meant that it was true, and it took her almost an hour to straighten the mess out. It seemed that a certain blonde cheerleader, whose room happened to be two doors down from her own, had told Cory that she was out with George. She'd even gone as far as to say that Sam and George had been spending "a lot of quality time together." Cory hadn't believed her, but when he called Sam's cell phone and she didn't answer he'd assumed the worst. Brooke hadn't even bothered to deny or defend her actions.

"I only told him the truth. If he made assumptions based on my words then that's his problem." Brooke looked Sam straight in the eye, the paragon of innocence.

Sam had been so angry, she'd just turned and walked away. She was almost out of the room when she heard Brooke speak again.

"Do you really want to date a boy that insecure?"

The brunette didn't even bother to respond. She just kept walking. Sam could hardly believe that that was the same girl she'd fallen hopelessly in love with. She was starting to doubt her own sanity. Brooke had become rude and malicious. Cory didn't even bother to call the house phone anymore. The blonde would just hang up on him, and even though he didn't say it, Sam knew that Brooke's actions were hurting her cousin. And that was putting a strain on Sam's relationship with Cory. Yet, in spite of all those facts, Sam still couldn't manage to fall out of love with Brooke. No she didn't like the blonde much at the moment, but every time she heard Brooke's laughter across the cafeteria, her eyes would seek the cheerleader out. Every time Brooke smiled at Josh a moment too long or paid extra attention to Harrison when they talked in the hall, Sam got jealous.

That didn't sit well with the brunette. She was with Cory now, but she couldn't deny that even as she watched the two blondes on stage, her eyes were only drawn to Brooke. When she dreamed at night, her dreams were filled with Brooke. Her heart called out for the blonde, and she hated that. It made her angry and it hurt. It hurt because Brooke didn't want her, not really. Brooke saw her as some sort of prize to be won, and she couldn't deal with that. She couldn't deal with the fact that once she gave herself completely to the blonde, Brooke would realize it wasn't what she wanted.

Things would be better once Cory moved and Sam could spend more time with him. That would make things more bearable. The time between now and when she left for college would fly by and then she could hopefully put 3000 miles between her and Brooke. What that spelled out for her future with Cory, she wasn't sure, but it was too soon to be thinking about that anyhow.

The Claw finally released them after the boys finished rehearsing the "Chipmunk" sketch. Harrison made an excellent "Dave" and Sam had forgotten how good of a singer Josh was. The students scrambled off the stage as she made her way down the aisle to meet Lily.

"You ready to go?" she asked Lily.

"Yep, let me just dig my keys out of my bag." Lily dug around in the bag until she heard the familiar jingle of keys. "Got 'em," she said as she led the way out of the auditorium.

"The 'disgruntled elf' bit is going really well."

"Yeah, but I swear Claw is trying to make a crack about my size. I just haven't been able to prove it."

Sam chuckled as she slid into the passenger seat of Lily's "new" beat up old car. The journalist had caught a ride with her friend because her car was in the shop. She liked Lily's car. It was a 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera and it ran well, most of the time. She'd traded in her Prius for a more financially practical car, so that she and Josh could have more money. Though she knew Lily wasn't completely happy with the idea, it had helped them get the money to put towards their new apartment. The apartment was small but cozy and had about enough room for just the two of them and their pitiful "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree. Sam's mother had helped Lily get a job after school helping with filing at the real estate office she worked for. Josh was working evening and weekend shifts in the dinning hall of a retirement community. Things had been rough for them in the beginning, but Sam was happy to see that everything was finally looking up for her friend. Now if I could only get my own life under control.

"So are you heading home after you drop me off?" Sam asked as Lily put the key in the ignition.

Lily looked over at her and smiled brightly. "Yes, this is the first night in like a month that Josh and I have been off at the same time and I intend to take full advantage of it."

Sam returned the smile before turning towards her window. It was only six o'clock, and she didn't have much homework to do. She'd be able to call Cory and talk to him for an hour or two. Talking to him always made her feel much better. Then maybe she could focus on that article she needed to finish.

The sound of the car moaning and sputtering without turning over drew Sam's attention back to Lily.

"Come on…come on girl, you can do it." Lily turned the key again, but had no luck.

Lily tried over and over again for the next few minutes, but it was no use.

"Lil, just give it up. I think I see Josh and SD heading out." Sam opened her door and stepped out of the car and Lily followed her. The smaller girl leaned against her car and sighed.

"What's up, babe? Is everything okay?" Josh asked as he walked by and noticed his wife just standing there.

"No, it won't start." Lily sighed again and pinched the bridge of her nose. "We can't afford to make any repairs. I just started that job and we-"

"Hey babe, shhh…it's okay." Josh wrapped his arms around his wife. "My brother's coming in tomorrow to visit my mom. I'll just have him stop by here and take a look at your car. He'll fix it, no problem."

Sam smiled at the couple. They were oddly matched, but really sweet and really in love.

"Lil, is everything okay?" Carmen asked as she and Emory walked over and joined the group.


"My car won't start." Lily turned and faced her friend.

"Well look, I was just going to drop of Sug, Carmen, and Emory. There's totally enough room for you. You can just ride home with me."

"Yeah, but what about Sam?"

"Hey Lil, go it's fine. I've got my cell. I can just call my mom." Sam took out her cell and flashed it to her friends.

"Or you could ride with me," Brooke said, causing Sam to jump in surprise. Where did she come from?

Sam forced a smile for her friends' benefit. "Or I could ride with Brooke. So go on, you guys. I have a ride," Sam said though the last thing she wanted to do was ride with Brooke. She waved goodbye to her friends as they got in Josh's car, before turning back to the blonde beside her. "Thanks for the offer, but no thanks. I'd rather walk." Sam began to away from the blonde.

"Sam, Sam wait," Brooke called after her. She could her the blonde running to catch up with her. Brooke grabbed her shoulder and turned Sam around to face her. "Look, it's going to be dark soon and you can't just walk home. It's too far."

"First of all, don't ever grab me again," Sam growled. "Second, I can do whatever it is I want. You are not my mother." Sam turned and began walking again.

"No, I'm not your mother, but if you insist on being childish and stupid with your safety, I'm going to call her. I'm sure she'd love to hear that."

Sam stopped in her tracks. Though she'd apologize, she was already on thin ice with her mother. Something like this would probably send her over the deep end. Besides, she wouldn't give Brooke the satisfaction of getting her grounded yet again. "Fine," she said with an exaggerated sigh. She turned back to Brooke and followed behind her silently.

They rode in the car in complete silence, neither knowing what to say to the other. Brooke fiddled with the radio stations but gave up when she didn't find anything good. She cleared her throat and looked over at the brunette that was currently staring out of the window.


Sam didn't bother to turn around or speak. She didn't know what Brooke had to say, but she was pretty sure she didn't want to hear it.

"Sam, I know you can hear me."

The brunette still didn't budge. Her brown eyes followed the trees and signs as they whizzed by.

"Fine, I'm still going to say what I want to say." Brooke paused as if she were hoping for a response. When she received none, she pressed on. "I just wanted to say I was sorry. First, for getting you grounded and second, for telling Cory that you were out with George."

Sam rolled her eyes, but didn't say anything.

Brooke waited until the silence became almost deafening. Maybe it was the sound of her blood boiling in her ears. "I just apologized and you don't even have the decency to acknowledge me?" Brooke seethed.

Sam sighed but still didn't turn around. "Okay."

"Okay?" Brooke asked, taken aback by the simple word.

"Yes, okay. You apologized. Okay." Sam's tone was almost bored.

"All you have to say is 'okay?'" Brooke asked incredulously.

Sam could feel her anger begin to flare at Brooke's tone. She willed her voice to stay calm as she turned to look at the blonde. "What is it that you want me to say exactly?"

"Oh, I don't know. You could try accepting it."

"Why should I accept an insincere apology?" Sam asked in an amused tone.

"My apology was not insinc-"

"Oh, come off it, Barbie. I know if you were given the chance tomorrow, you'd do it all over again. So keep your hollow apology. I don't need it." Sam turned back towards her window.

Brooke was hurt and angry that Sam had rejected her apology. She was trying to do the right thing and Sam had stepped on that. She accused Brooke of being insincere, when really all evidence pointed to Sam as the callous one. She's the one that broke Brooke's heart. She was the one that had told Brooke she was in love with her and then weeks later was dating Brooke's cousin. And there she sat, on her moral high horse, calling Brooke insincere.

"Is that what you tell yourself, Sam? Is that how you face yourself in the mirror every morning and excuse your actions? By telling yourself that I'm the one to blame? Is that the reason why you feel the need to punish me? I gave you everything. The only thing I had left was that apology and you even spit on that. But I'm the one that's insincere."

Sam felt Brooke's words as if they were physical blows. She could hear the hurt in the blonde's voice and it angered her. How dare she think that I'm punishing her? Brooke was the one that had made it her life's mission to ruin Sam's. But Sam was punishing her?

"Look, I don't know if all of that blonde dye has finally seeped into your brain or if maybe you were just dropped on your head as a child, but I am not punishing anyone. You're the one that has made my life a living hell. Ever since Thanksgiving, you have been mean and downright nasty to me. I'm sorry if you can't handle the fact that you lost whatever contest you thought you were playing with Cory, but I am not some prize to be won." Sam hoped out of the car as they pulled up into the driveway. She practically ran into the house, but Brooke was hot on her heels. She turned around abruptly and crossed her arms over her chest. "Just stay away from me, Brooke," Sam said before turning and running up the stairs to her room.

"I'm sorry if you can't handle the fact that you lost whatever contest you thought you were playing with Cory, but I am not some prize to be won."

Those words had been running through Brooke's mind all day. Last night after Sam had left her standing in the kitchen, Brooke had thought back over the conversation. Happening on the journalist after practice had been a lucky coincidence. She'd wanted to apologize to Sam for a few days. Her recent actions weren't something she was proud of. They were mean and hurtful and she'd acted like a jealous two-year-old. When Sam had confronted her about lying to Cory, Brooke had been shamed. She'd resorted to petty middle school tactics to split the two up and that just wasn't her. She just didn't understand why her feelings for Sam seemed to bring out her worst qualities. That wasn't how she wanted to live. Driving Sam away wasn't something she wanted. Sure her feelings were hurt at Sam's decision to date Cory, but the part of her that desperately wanted to be the bigger person questioned her love for Sam. If she truly loved her, shouldn't she want Sam to be happy even if it wasn't with her? Her conscious screamed "yes" while her heart protested. So she ignored her heart and decided to put an end to her relentless torture of Sam. Her first step had been to apologize.

Whatever she'd been expecting to gain from that conversation certainly hadn't been the argument that followed. Sam's words had cut deep. So she'd lashed out, allowing her hurt and anger to overrule her ultimate goal. She was pretty sure that she'd done more harm than good and she was even at more of a loss as to how to fix things. Plus there was an added element to the whole doomed situation. Sam somehow thought her feelings weren't genuine. That she'd somehow managed to twist some need to compete with Cory into a confession of love for the brunette. A part of her wanted to be angry with Sam for thinking her capable of such callous and thoughtless actions, but she supposed it was justified. She hadn't exactly been behaving in a manner that spoke otherwise. Even as she thought back to her conduct during Thanksgiving, she could see how Sam would think that way. Now there was no way for her to convince Sam that her feelings were real.

It was like they were stuck in some never ending cycle. A big cosmic joke. And Brooke would laugh if she didn't feel so miserable.

"You want to tell me what's been up with you today?" George asked as he sat down with his tray of fast food.

"What are you talking about?" Sam sat across from him, munching on French fries, but not really tasting them.

"Well something's been off all week. You've been sort of distracted, but today you were completely out of it."

Sam sighed. She knew he was right. She'd missed her cues, mixed up her words, and forgotten her choreography at rehearsal today. Miss Glass had been so angry, she'd sent George and Sam to lunch while she worked with some of the other acts.

"It's nothing."

"It's not nothing. Is everything okay?" George met Sam's brown eyes with his own.

"Everything's fine," Sam lied, forcing a smile. She looked back down at her tray of greasy fries and fiddled with the empty straw wrapper.

"Fine, you don't have to tell me. I'm not going to pry. You've never been really open about your problems with Brooke in the past. I don't know why this time should be any different…" he let his words trail and his gaze never wavered.

Sam's head shot up at the mention of the blonde's name and she looked at her ex-boyfriend in alarmed surprise.

George offered her gentle smile. "Only one person has ever managed to knock you off center like this, and besides, she's been messing up in practice a lot today too."

Sam snorted softly at his comment and shoved her tray away.

"Come on, it's obvious that you want to talk about it. Who better to than me? I mean after all I am playing Santa Claus and I'd like to think at one point we were friends."

Sam looked at him. They had been friends and working with him this past week had really shown her how much she missed that. So she spilled the whole story, starting from Halloween. She briefly worried if he would be put off by her admittance of feelings for her blonde stepsister, but when he showed no signs of disgust, she continued. He listened patiently, never interrupting, while he ate his food. She finished by telling him about the argument in the car the previous night. When she was done, she looked at him expectantly.

"Well aren't you?" George asked.

"Aren't I what?" Sam was confused, thinking maybe he'd heard the story wrong.

"Aren't you punishing her?" George asked in a matter of fact tone.

"Of course I'm not punishing her. How can you ask me that?" Sam was surprised and a little angry at his question. He'd totally missed the point of the story.

"Okay, hear me out before you get all huffy. Granted I haven't been around you in a couple of months, but I'd like to think I still know you pretty well. And from the story you just told me, I think that a part of you chose Cory out of some sort of punishment to Brooke." Sam opened her mouth to protest, but he cut her off. "I'm sure that Cory's a nice guy. I'd like to think that you wouldn't be dating him if he weren't. But Sam don't you think that he's just some sort of convenient excuse to run from your insecurities? You took a chance on Brooke by telling her your feelings, and she disappointed you, by not responding the way you thought she should. So when she told you about her feelings, you rejected her the way you felt rejected. Now you act as if her feelings couldn't possibly be genuine because then you'd have to admit you made a mistake, and I know how much you hate to do that."

George's words angered Sam, partly because she feared they might be true. "They aren't genuine. She didn't show the slightest interest in me until Cory showed up. She always wants things she can't have because she feels the world owes her something, and I will not end up three months from now in the same place that Harrison did," Sam argued.

"Fine Sam, I'm not going to argue with you. Just consider this. I may not know Brooke well, but I know that she isn't prone to just go around making out with people in 'the heat of the moment.' You told me she kissed you back in that closet and that was before Cory. If she didn't feel something I don't think she would have. Maybe what was between Harrison and her wasn't the right thing. Maybe you two are." George said.

Sam didn't want to believe that George was right, but even as she fought the rightness of his logic, she felt her resolve crumble. She didn't want to think herself capable of such petty behavior, no matter how subconscious it might have been. Now she wasn't sure what to do because if he was right, she'd made a horrible mistake. And that mistake stood to hurt three people.

The next day and a half went by with Sam and Brooke warily avoiding each other, even going as far as to make separate plans after the holiday showcase. But tonight was Christmas Eve and Mike and Jane wanted Mac's first Christmas to be special. Neither of the girls was willing to deprive their younger sister of something so special. So they'd joined their parents, careful to stay as far away from each other as possible. Things were going well until their parents retired to bed with Mac, leaving them alone in the living room. They sat in awkward silence looking everywhere else but at each other. Consumed in their own thoughts of all the things they should be saying but weren't.

Brooke spoke first, thinking anything else would be better than the silence. "I, uh, wanted to tell you that I thought you did a really good job in the show yesterday. The kids seemed to really like your 'Mrs. Claus' routine." Truthfully so had Brooke. Sam really had a true talent for the stage. Plus Brooke had thoroughly enjoyed watching the brunette's hips sway in the skimpy red dress she'd been wearing.

"Thanks, you did a good job too," Sam replied lamely. Silence prevailed once again.

Brooke took a deep breath. Why did things have to be so hard? They needed to talk about things and she decided now was as good a time as ever. "Sam, we need to talk."

Sam closed her eyes, she wasn't sure she was ready for this conversation. "What about, Brooke?"

Sam was going to make this difficult, Brooke thought with a sigh. "You know what about…"

"I'm sorry, I don't think I do. Enlighten me, Brooke…" Sam knew she was baiting the blonde, but couldn't seem to stop herself.

"You know what? I don't know why I bother," Brooke said, standing up and walking towards the stairs.

"You know it's not like you've made this any easier, Brooke," Sam called behind her.

Brooke spun around. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"It means that I have spent the last two months trying to figure out what it is you want from me."

"What I want from you? You're the one that told me she was in love with me and then just weeks later was dating my cousin." Brooke moved back towards the journalist.

"It's not like that. I mean it wasn't like you'd confessed your undying love and devotion for me…" Sam let her words trail as her anger started to build slowly inside of her.

"You never gave me the chance!"

"I did! I tried talking to you about it that day in the kitchen."

"That's right…you talked, but you didn't listen! You just kept cutting me off!" Brooke stood directly in front of Sam, daring her to back down.

"You had plenty of time before Thanksgiving. How about Halloween night? Why didn't you talk to me then? If you loved me so much, why not tell me when I made a fool of myself by confessing my feelings for you?!" Sam stood in the blonde's face, arms folded over her chest.

"I needed time to think. I never thought in a million years that you'd ever feel that way about me, and then things happened so fast. I mean one minute we were kissing and next you were freaking out and then you found out about the prank. I didn't think it would be a good idea to just confess my feelings then. So I waited a few days for things to calm down, only you wouldn't let me talk. You kept avoiding me and cutting me off. How was I supposed to tell you? Oh I know! Maybe I should have told you while you were hanging all over Cory…"Brooke finished sarcastically.

"It wasn't like that! I was just being nice. You were the one walking around like a bitch on Prada heels. How was I supposed to know that meant 'I love Sam?'" Sam scoffed.

"Because I told you! I explained to you why I was acting like that…you think it was easy watching you with him? I was doing fine before you told me how you felt!"

"Yeah, well I was doing fine before I told you. I was doing great before you kissed me and then never bothered to tell me how you felt or what it all meant!"

"But I tried…you know what? This is getting us nowhere. I'm done!" Brooke declared.

"You're done?" Sam was thrown by Brooke's announcement. She didn't know what it meant, but she feared what would happen next.

"Yes, I'm done. You…you made your decision Sam. You chose Cory and no amount of wishing on my part is going to change that. So now I have to make a decision, and my decision is…I'm done. I can't do this anymore. I can't live like this anymore." Brooke looked utterly defeated. Her shoulders slumped and her head bowed as she walked past the journalist.

"Brooke…"Sam eyes closed as she called after the blonde, stopping her in her tracks.

Brooke turned around and looked expectantly at the journalist.

Sam crossed the distance and kissed Brooke with everything that she was. She was done arguing. She was done fighting her own feelings. She was done forcing herself to settle, because when she took away all the expectations and her own pride, all that was left was her love for Brooke. As she slid her fingers through the silky blonde locks and pulled Brooke closer to her, she knew this was where she belonged. They separated, both panting and their foreheads touching.

"I…I don't know what to say," Brooke whispered, fearing that she'd break whatever spell had fallen over them.

Sam smirked. "Then I guess it's a good thing that this part doesn't require words." She leaned in to kiss the blonde again, but was interrupted by the doorbell. "I'll get that, don't go anywhere." Sam smiled and then walked towards the door, silently cursing whoever was on the other side.

Like I would, Brooke thought, wondering who could be at the door this late. It was probably one of Sam's friends.

Sam threw open the door expecting to see Harrison or Carmen. She wasn't quite prepared for what awaited her. "Cory?"

The taller boy flashed her a big smile before wrapping his arms around her. "Surprise! Merry Christmas, Sam!"

The End

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